IMG_0514Driving through the French countryside, castles are as common as cows or crows. Turrets and towers pierce the treeline, no longer needed for spotting marauders arriving from afar. Sometimes you can see the full edifice, always a conglomeration of additions and wings added over centuries, different generations leaving their marks.IMG_0503Back in December, I made a detour out of Carcassonne to Rustiques, a little village I’d driven through before and decided would be worth a second look on such a sparkling winter day. This explains the vegetation, which has changed drastically to lush, lush green of spring.

The old tower is on the left.

The château was closed, but it’s so big that you can still see a good deal of it. Here’s what I found out. Around the 5th century, barbarian invasions by the Visigoths, Sarrasins and Francs made the locals unite for safety on a high spot from which they could spot invaders. They went one better with a tower, the oldest part of the current château, which also served as a dungeon. The Rustiquois, as locals are called, corralled the seigneur’s house and other houses in a wall with just two entries and plenty of meurtrières, or those tall, skinny openings from which you shoot arrows. The wall didn’t last–the town grew and crime fell, so the wall came down.IMG_0533There’s a document from 1063 attesting to the existence of a castellum, or watch tower.

The leader of the Albigensian crusade, Simon de Montfort, granted the fiefdom of Rustiques to a family from the north, whose descendants still live in the château. That is quite a heritage!IMG_0523

12 thoughts on “Château de Rustiques

  1. You may already have figured this out, but ‘donjon’ and ‘dungeon’ are not the same thing. The French ‘donjon’ translates into English as ‘castle keep’ ie that inner, most secure tower central to medieval castles. The English ‘dungeon’ translates best as ‘cachot’ I think.

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  2. Your writing is exquisite, and enhances the history you are sharing and the images you’ve captured. I am unfamiliar with so much of France, despite all my time in Paris and a few other spots, and this post reminds me of that. The extraordinary history that still remains is one of the reasons that visiting and exploring is so rich an experience. I can’t imagine what it is like to live in a place with 15 centuries of history. Having grown up in New England where at least there were a few hundred years of history still “accessible,” and then having moved to the deep South were so little architectural history, certainly, is present, was a shock. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that my séjours in Paris and elsewhere in France have always been so meaningful to me.

    Lovely post.

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  3. I love history and your posts are always filled not only with beautiful photos of buildings and times past but the most interesting facts. I do not think I would get any work done if I lived near you because I would be distracted all of the time by so much history.

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    1. Honestly, it kills me sometimes not to have time to stop and take photos or poke around, and I do want to learn about every interesting place. But work also is interesting!


  4. How fabulous to live in a country where you have castles! Love your photo of the old and the new structures. It’s great that universally people put smaller stones in the aggregate to show what part has been restored and what’s new. So helpful in imaging what it looked like originally. I’m thinking as I’m reading about marauders… Isn’t is a shame people have never been able to live in peace? As always I love and appreciate that you give us a glimpse of what it’s like to live in another country. One thing I don’t know is how you wound up living there. xoxox, Brenda

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    1. I was in Belgium for work, where I met my husband. Then I got transferred back to the U.S., where we had our kid. My husband hated NY and wanted to return to Europe, but to Carcassonne, where we had bought a fixer-upper as a vacation house.


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